I was on hand for the 49ers' longest training camp practice yet on Wednesday, so I’ll break down what stood out to me, starting as always with my evaluation of Jimmy Garoppolo and Trey Lance.
After stringing together a couple of strong practices, Garoppolo came back down to earth on Wednesday. He looked much more hesitant and regularly crumbled under pressure.
Garoppolo made errant throws substantially higher than the previous two practices, even from clean pockets. Garoppolo’s best throw of the day came on an in-breaking route to Deebo Samuel about 15 yards upfield, a throw that demonstrated good timing and understanding of the required rhythm to execute Kyle Shanahan’s offense.
The issue is that the bad far outweighed the good on Wednesday, as Garoppolo threw multiple interceptions and would have had an additional going against him if it wasn’t for Dre Greenlaw colliding with K’Waun Williams as he got his hands on the ball.
Garoppolo's missing throws and being uncomfortable in the pocket is nothing new. Still, the unique aspect to this season is it will be the first time during Garoppolo’s tenure in San Francisco that there is an equally capable quarterback on the roster to supplant him potentially.
The aggressiveness in recent practices was a welcome development. Still, Wednesday was a day that reminded those in attendance why the 49ers spent the majority of the offseason looking to upgrade the quarterback room.
My biggest takeaway from Wednesday’s practice was that it would be impossible to fairly assess the performance of Lance as long as he is taking reps behind the second-team offensive line.
The skill level of the 49ers' second-team defensive line is significantly greater than that of the second-team offensive line, and as a result, Lance has been put in spots where he is running for his life well before a play has the chance to come close to developing.
While conditions are rarely going to be perfect at the NFL level, Lance is being forced to execute an offense in a setting far from equivalent to what he would experience behind a first-team offensive line.
Lance’s best throw of the day came on a deep ball to Deebo Samuel down the right sideline for a 35 yard gain. Once again, Lance showed off his plus arm talent, getting the ball to its spot with authority while maintaining the required touch to hit his receiver in stride.
His worst throw came on a third and long during situational drills, on a ball intended for Trent Sherfield that sailed high on the receiver, which didn’t allow Sherfield the chance to get two feet inbounds for the catch.
Lance has made great strides with his accuracy in recent weeks, but his propensity to miss receivers high still lingers. So while I don’t think either quarterback had a particularly strong day, I thought Lance was the better of the two on Wednesday.
Four players who stood out
I thought McGlinchey had a solid showing during 11-on-11s on Wednesday, showing a significant improvement in pass protection. However, the biggest issue for McGlinchey continues to be speed rushers on the edge, winning with raw quickness to the outside of McGlinchey’s right shoulder. Again he was great today, but when he did get beat, it seemed like it was always to the outside.
No other way to put this; Willis has not only been one of the best defensive linemen during training camp but has been one of the best players at ANY position over the last couple of weeks.
Willis is a tremendous athlete, and for the most part, his assignment is simple - (get to the quarterback) - allowing him to maximize his physical gifts and focus on pinning his ears back to get upfield in a hurry to disrupt the rhythm of opposing quarterbacks.
Willis will likely be placed on the reserve/suspended list while he serves his six-game suspension to start the season, but he has played so well that I have a hard time seeing the 49ers not having a plan to keep a roster spot clear and/or flexible enough for his return following Week 6.
Another strong showing for the 49ers' number one cornerback. Verrett picked off Garoppolo during 11 on 11s and added a couple of pass breakups as well. Verrett has looked the part as a shutdown corner.
It’s worth noting Verrett has been the only defensive back to lock up Brandon Aiyuk in coverage consistently. The hope is that his dominant showing in camp will translate to a potentially larger role in the regular season when there is a very realistic scenario that he will be tasked with shadowing the top receiving option on the opposing team.
After missing the last four practices, Armstead returned as a full participant on Wednesday. During individual drills, he displayed a good burst off the line and recorded a couple of key pressures during 11 on 11s. However, it seems like the 49ers were being overly cautious by holding him out of a few practices with what was described as groin tightness.
Suited up and in pads but worked off to the side and did not participate in individual drills or 11 on 11s. Ebukam’s absence from the previous four practices was attributed to leg swelling, which the coaching staff described as normal wear and tear. While working off to the side on his own, Ebukam did not appear to be hindered in any way, and I’d expect his return to practicing in full will come much sooner rather than later.
Worked out off to the side for a second consecutive day, appears to be on track to return to his starting spot at SAM linebacker much sooner than initially expected.